A story to go with the 1856 O Double Eagle

Often rarity is not enough to drive a coin’s value. The most valuable coins are all associated with great stories. For example, the 1913 liberty head nickel was associated with mint employee, Samuel Brown secretly minting the coin and then placing an ad to buy the nickels he already owned. There’s the story of Hallie Daggett, who was given a rare 1894 S dime and promptly spent it on ice cream. In both cases, the story adds to the mystique of the coin.

The latest coin to be promoted with a story is an 1856 O double eagle, which is currently being auctioned by Heritage Auctions. At the time of this writing, the high bid is $280,000. According to the story, a Kentucky farmer found the coin in circulation. When he died in 1923, it passed to his heirs who had no knowledge of the coin’s rarity. It was only in 2010, that the coin was further examined and found to be the key to the Liberty Head double Eagle series. Only 2,250 double eagles were minted in New Orleans in 1856, and only 24 are known to survive today. The Liberty Head series has never drawn the attention of modern collectors the way the St. Gaudens series has. Therefore, the coins need some hype. The Kentucky farmer story may not be the best story in numismatics, but it is enough to add to its value.

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